Indie game dev is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. No matter if you are new to games, or a seasoned veteran, you will no doubt love and have probably played at least one amazing indie game. Whats that you say? You only play polished AAA games?
Minecraft, is an addictive indie game made by a solo indie dev. One mind envisioned and created this masterpiece that forever changed the gaming industry.
Tetris, captivated and helped mold an entire generation of game developers. This amazing title was also was created by a solo indie game dev.
That’s right! Both of those amazing titles are indie games created by a solo dev. It is possible that you live under a rock, and have never played either of those fantastic indie games. That does not change the fact that indie game development has changed the world on several occasions. This is a fantastic career choice and a rewarding path to follow.
Indie Game Dev is Not all sugar and spice
Thousands of new people have started down the indie game dev path only to be stopped dead in there tracks. I see the same thing time and time again. Most people want to make the games they play. Let me elaborate, people who play Halo want to make Halo. People who play any AAA title want to make a game just like the ones they love to play. The issue is that, on the surface, creating an amazing new game seems easy. Only after you start to actually make your game do you realize how hard it truly is.
Some truth about indie game dev
You will never make the next halo. No matter how hard you work, it is not possible for you to make a game of that size in your lifetime. That’s right, I did not stutter, it is not possible. Consider this, AAA game titles are made by teams from a few hundred to a few thousand in size. So lets low ball this. I am going to pretend a team of 100 people worked on a game for 6 months. If this team worked 40 hours per week, that is 4,000 hours of dev time per week going into this game. Now multiply that by 10 or even 100, and you have the scale of hours that go into a AAA title. So, when I say you will never make the next halo, I mean it. Do you have 4,000 hours a week to work on your game?
Set realistic goals
Do not let the fact that you are not going to make the next AAA title alone in your moms basement end your journey. All is not lost! You can still make an amazing indie game. In fact, you can make a game that sells millions of copies and makes you a small fortune. Minecraft sold for more money than I can even imagine, and that was a solo artist! The key is to down scope your idea. We all want to make the next Space Engineers, Or the next Fortnite, but we cant. So we down scope. We set realistic goals, and we start programming. The hardest part of any adventure is the first step. To be an indie dev, all you have to do is start making games.
What engine do I use?
I see many that are new to indie game dev, quickly become overwhelmed. The sheer amount of game engines alone can leave you with a headache. Many new to game dev actually quit at this point. I find it so sad that they give up so easily. I will step in here and try to help you out a little. After all, the world needs to see your game! Indie games make the world just a little more tolerable.
Its not magic, its a tool.
Game engines are a tool, nothing more nothing less. Some of these tools require you to know how to program. Most of these tools offer a free visual scripting option as well. Visual scripting can be a great tool if you are new to game design, or perhaps you are more artsy and less of a programmer. I am an indie game dev and money is not always abundant. For this reason, I will only cover two of the most popular free game engines today.
Godot Game Engine
Godot is a very popular choice for new as well as some seasoned indie game developers. Just like any tool, Godot has good points and bad points. One of the major selling points for this engine is the fact your game will be all yours. Godot is free and open-source under the very permissive MIT license. What this means for you, is that after you make your game, you pay no royalties. Many game engines are free to use but if you make a popular game, they charge you. Godot also comes with an easy to use scripting language much like python. Of course Godot also has support for c# c++ and visual scripting as well. With this engine you can make both 2D and 3D games with ease. This engine is a good choice for the beginner, as well as the seasoned veteran.
Unity Game Engine
It does not matter if you know how to program or not. Unity is an excellent engine for indie game development. I personally, use unity for all my game dev. With this engine making a prototype or even a full fledged game is smooth sailing. Visual scripting is not really my thing but, Unity just released Bolt for free for all unity users. Bolt is a super powerful visual scripting add on that allows the non programmer to make beautiful games. With this engine the world is your oyster. No matter if you want to make a stunning 3D or a breathtaking 2D indie game, this engine makes that a real possibility. Another thing I love about unity is the Asset store. The Unity Asset Store will save you endless hours. You can find game art or even scripts in the asset store. Most defiantly a selling point for this engine.
So you have down scoped your game idea. Refined your notes downloaded your favorite game engine and now you are lost. I remember my first time making a game. I used my commodore 64 with the BASIC programming language. Yes, I am very old. I remember sitting there for hours with a blank mind. It was as if all those great ideas I had vanished and I was lost. You are probably in the same situation right now. Maybe you are different and you have this great idea and you are ready but just don’t know what to do. Well first of all, take a deep breath. You have already done more than 90% of other people interested in game development.
Most people interested in starting game dev, even some seasoned vets, get lost in the sea of information. I is so easy , especially in today’s world, to get lost watching YouTube and loose direction. Does this sound familiar? You watch 400 tutorials and still have a blank screen and no game? Well don’t worry you are not alone. At least you took action and downloaded an engine. Congrats! You are a on your way. Now you just start programming.
Your first indie game will be ugly
Your first game will not be pretty. I am sure your very first indie game will have glitchy graphics, unfinished levels, and lots of bugs you now just call features because you cant fix them. That is amazing! Be proud of that game! you need to make games like this so you can learn. Even tho that game is not commercially viable, you made it! It is your creation! Now start making more games. With each and every game you will get better as a indie game dev. It may take you 10 or even 100 games before you are good enough to sell your work. Guess what? That does not matter! You are now a successful indie game dev. The moment you make your first crazy, barley working game, you are an indie game dev. Smile! Love your life! You accomplished a goal!
Game test OFTEN!
I know, you are afraid your game is not good enough. We all face that fear, even me. To be a successful game dev, you must have your games tested. You will learn a vast amount of information by having others your game. You will see things you could never imagine and you will make a better game faster. It is scary, no way around it. People will tell you your game sucks. They will be mean, but some will not. Some will gain interest in your work and give you great feedback. Please do not skip this step. This is perhaps the most important step in indie game dev. You will make such better games and grow so much as an artist if you let others test your levels.
Can I sell my indie game?
So you have worked your but off by this point. You have an amazing game, and you want to release it to the public. Amazing!!! Steam is not always the best option. Itch.io is an amazing place to release your game. I hope that before you try to sell your game you have taken the time to grow several social media accounts. Even the best game in the world can go unnoticed and never sell a copy. In the world we are in, it is important to build a following before you release. No matter how you choose to release your game, just know, I am proud of you. It takes a lot of work to be an indie game developer. I hope you will keep me posted in your journey. Do not ever forget, indie game dev is more than a career it is a community. Make friends, have fun, and release that game!!!